Crane #217 and her mate, #211
Tip Leads to Closure of Whooping Crane Shooting in Indiana
News Release, April 14, 2011
Closure comes in the case of matriarch whooping crane shooting
because of a citizen tip. Wade Bennett of Cayuga, Ind. pled guilty and
was sentenced on March 30, 2011, for his involvement in the shooting
of a whooping crane in Vermillion County, Indiana. Bennett and a juvenile
were charged and sentenced in Indiana State Court, in Vermillion County,
Indiana. Bennett and the juvenile received minimal probation, fines and
fees for their involvement in the shooting of the crane. Voluntary information
from a local citizen was instrumental in closing this case.
Wildlife law enforcement agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS) and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources investigated
the shooting of the crane. The crane, last observed alive by an International
Crane Foundation (ICF) staff member on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, was found
dead by an ICF volunteer found on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009, in rural Vermillion
The crane, referred to as the monarch of the reintroduction program,
was identified by a leg band, and determined to be the seven-year old
mother of “Wild-1,” the only whooping crane chick, at that
to successfully hatch (in 2006) and migrate from captivity.
In early spring 2010, a citizen came forward with information concerning
the shooting of the crane. The citizen’s information was valuable
to investigators during subsequent interviews of Bennett and the juvenile.
Both Bennett and the juvenile confessed to their involvement in the shooting
of the whooping crane.
Observations reported by the public play a key role in solving wildlife
crime, according to USFWS Special Agent Buddy Shapp. “People who
live in an area notice details that can tell us a lot,” Shapp said. “They
sometimes see something or hear something that strikes them as unusual
but not necessarily criminal. People might not realize that their observation
Whooping cranes in the wild already face monumental challenges — mortality
due to predators and disease, and the threat of continued habitat loss. “The
senseless killing of a whooping crane by a human hand is sad, butinexcusable
and entirely preventable,” notes John French, a member of the Whooping
Crane Recovery Team.
“With fewer than 500 of these birds on Earth, every bird is important
to keeping this species from extinction and this bird was extremely valuable
to the recovery program. This unnecessary killing set the program back
significantly, but fortunately there are many citizens across
country that continue to champion the whooping crane cause and can help
prevent this from happening again,” said French.
“Our investigators coordinate closely with the judicial system in an effort
to secure the most appropriate penalties for the commission of crimes
against wildlife and natural resources,” noted USFWS Midwest
Region Assistant Special Agent in Charge Warren Buhl.
In addition to the Endangered Species Act, whooping cranes
are protected by state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
wildlife conservation efforts.